Narcan supply for Pima County dries up, contingency funds could be used

Published: Aug. 3, 2021 at 7:49 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Pima County may be reimbursed for the costs of lawsuit settlements with opioid manufactures, and the possible influx of funds could be the key to restoring the county’s Narcan supply, which is dwindling as opioid overdoses rise.

The Pima County Health Department has increased accessibility to the drug Narcan, a nasal spray that combats the effects of opioids and Naloxone, an injectable version in several ways. They provide extra doses to law enforcement, fire departments, libraries and more.

“Right now, the local situation in Pima County is so dire, we need to get the Narcan out so much, and we as a health department have such a low supply,” said Mayra Jeffery with the Health Department.

The county has been getting Narcan from the state through a grant program, but the funding has been exhausted after a delivery of 500 doses to Pima County.

“This is absolutely a medical condition. This is a terrible disease, and we have to treat it as such,” said Dr. Matt Heinz, a Pima County Supervisor.

Now, the health department is asking to use $250,000 of contingency funds to buy about 3,500 doses of Narcan. According to a memo from Chuck Huckleberry, another Pima County Administrator, the county could be reimbursed through the opioid lawsuit settlement, “from which the county will receive significant funds.”

The state may also be able to refill the drug at a later date, but it is unknown for now.

“We’re hoping the board of supervisors will approve at least a temporary supply until ADHS can continue to refill,” said Jeffery.

Opioid overdose deaths are on the rise in Southern Arizona. Last year marked a grim record for deaths due to opioids and, public officials say, 2021 is on track to surpass that number.

Opioid deaths are now the leading cause for people under 19 in Pima County. More than 450 people in Pima County died last year because of opioids.

“This year, we are on track to outpace that, yet again, and we’re expected to exceed over 500 overdose deaths,” Jeffery said.

Nationwide, an increase in opioid deaths drives demand for the antidotes. According to Pfizer’s website, their supplies of the Naloxone injection are “depleted.” Emergent Biosolutions, which manufactures the Narcan spray, sold more than $33 million dollars more of the drug than they did last year, according to their latest quarterly report. PCHD said there is talk of short supply nationwide, but hope they can get enough doses to at least help people for the next several months.

Supervisors will vote on the measure at their August 10th meeting.

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